US House backs increased funding for education and research

Final budget, pending Senate and White House input, may be slightly less generous

June 20, 2019
US Congress
Source: iStock

The US House of Representatives approved an annual education budget sharply higher than that requested by the Trump administration, while declining to confront it directly over collegiate sexual harassment policy.

The Democrat-led House, in a 226-203 vote that largely followed party lines, agreed to provide $2.7 billion (£2.1 billion) for higher education programmes in the fiscal year that begins in October.

That is $436 million more than current levels and $1.2 billion more than the administration requested. The bill also provides $41 billion for the National Institutes of Health, the largest supplier of basic research funding to universities, $2 billion above the current level and $7 billion above the Trump request.

“The bill itself is fantastic from a higher education perspective,” said Jonathan Fansmith, director of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, the main US higher education lobby group.

A final budget that wins support from the Republican-led Senate will not be quite as generous to education, though it is likely to bring increases on both current amounts and the administration plan, Mr Fansmith said.

Among the various amendments proposed for the budget bill, some Democrats proposed language that would prevent the Department of Education from using any money to change rules governing the treatment of sexual harassment cases on university campuses. But their party leadership rejected the amendment on procedural grounds, leaving the Trump administration free to move ahead with drafting changes that some higher education leaders fear will create disincentives for victims to pursue sexual harassment claims.

The House approved the budget bill even as congressional leaders negotiated with White House officials over the overall amount of money available to spend in the 2020 fiscal year. Without an agreement, the existing terms of a 2013 budget sequestration law would reduce overall available spending levels by about 10 per cent.

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